27 January 1890 – 10 August 1969
Bill was born in Tag Hill, Heanor, Derbyshire and worked as a miner at Shipley Colliery before enlisting in the 13th Battalion Rifle Brigade in 1914. He saw action on the Western Front and was wounded on the Somme. His heroic action saw him become the first British soldier to receive three gallantry awards, receiving the Military Medal for crawling between opposing lines to establish the identity of a wounded German soldier and the Distinguished Conduct Medal for carrying messages under heavy machine gun fire.
On 8th May 1918 at Bucquoy, France, when all the officers of Sergeant Gregg’s company had been hit during an attack on an enemy outpost, he took command, rushing two enemy posts, killing some of the gun teams, taking prisoners and capturing a machine-gun. He then started to consolidate his position until driven back by a counter-attack, but as reinforcements had by now come up, he led a charge, personally bombed a hostile machine-gun, killed the crew and captured the gun. When driven back again, he led another successful attack and held on to his position until ordered to withdraw.
In the same action, fellow miner William Beesley would also be awarded the VC. Bill inspired his comrades and was described as “a fine fighting man and one we would follow anywhere”. He returned to the mines after the war. On the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the National Defence Company of the Sherwood Foresters, serving until he reached the upper age limit. In August 1942 he served on one of the ferries evacuating survivors of the Dieppe raid.
Bill’s achievements were such that The Times newspaper ran an obituary to mark his passing.
Upon his death, his medals were bequeathed to The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum, Winchester.